One “Giant” Minnesota Protest: Big Vic, the Voyageur
Note: If you head to the far northern tip of Minnesota, you will find a couple of super cool giants. I am dividing this story into two separate blog posts. First up is Big Vic, the Voyageur, which can be found in the small town of Ranier. In a couple weeks I’ll share the story of Smokey Bear, which stands a couple miles away in International Falls.
Let’s face it. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Donald Trump has become our President-elect. While some are elated, others have taken to the streets in protest. They’ve signed petitions. They’ve vented on Facebook pages to try to bring attention to their cause. They’re frustrated with the government.
Protests against the government are nothing new. And both the right and left have led movements against the overreach of the federal government. While our current season of protest reminds some people of the 1960’s, it reminds me (a roadside art obsessed traveler) of one of the craziest single man protests that happened right here in Minnesota.
In 1980, the U.S. Park Service expanded the boundaries of Voyageurs National Park to include an island owned by a man named Vic Davis. Through eminent domain, the government started the process of seizing his land. Now, I know we are all thankful that our Boundary Waters are protected, but imagine if you owned a slice of that heaven. You would you fight the federal government too.
You might ask, how does one man in the middle of nowhere protest the government’s actions and get the attention of the media? Vic had an idea. A huge, gigantic idea. Vic protested this decision by putting up a sculpture of himself, dressed like a voyageur. Not just any sculpture, but a 25-foot-tall giant of a sculpture. A helicopter delivered the enormous voyageur to the island!
The Park Service was not amused when they saw the giant 25-foot voyageur. They took it away and forced Vic off his land. Did Vic give up? Oh no, he was not ready to give up his fight! He continued his protest by having a second sculpture, Big Louie, constructed near the Park’s Rainy Lake Visitor Center. Imagine the government’s surprise when they were greeted by a second giant voyageur!
Eventually, a court awarded Vic $90,000 for his land. The National Park Service donated Big Vic to the town of Ranier, where it stands today at the corner of County Road 20 and Highway 11. Vic didn’t want Big Louie, so he sold him to a business in Barnum, Minnesota. Big Louie is located just off Interstate 35 at the Windtree North Restaurant.
If you choose to check out Big Vic, you’ll find there’s a lot of outdoor activities to choose from while you visit Ranier. Take a ride on the Rainy Lake Bike Trail, which runs 12 miles from International Falls to Voyageurs National Park. Learn about the history of Voyageurs National Park, take a Rainy Lake boat tour, or join a park ranger for a guided hike by visiting the Rainy Lake Visitor Center.
Bring your swimsuit along and take a dip in Rainy Lake at Ranier Beach. Look across the water and you can see Canada! If you have kids, there is also a playground nearby at Village park.
The amount of things to do and attractions to see doesn’t stop there. International Falls is just a couple miles down the road. I’ll blog about it in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned!
Here’s some links to plan your visit.